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From the archives: Monthly feature

The Noske family, ca. 1880



From the archives
A recommendation by


Ravel (February 2012)
The Noske family, ca. 1880


(March 2012)
J.S. Bach: receipt, 1731
(April 2012)
J. and F. Giese, cellists
(May 2012)
Berlioz: a letter from
Rome (June 2012)
Alsbach: Album amicorum
(July 2012)
A violinist-aviator (1913)
(August 2012)
Mozart: letter (Milan 1770)
(September 2012)
Whose portrait?
(October 2012)
F. Nieuwenhuysen (1783)
(November 2012)
The picture shows Johan Daniël Noske, notary in Middelburg (in the Province of Zeeland), his wife Elisabeth Noske-Van den Broecke and their three sons: Johan Daniël Jr., Willem Christiaan and Abraham Anthony. The two women on the left are unidentified. Johan Daniël Jr., the firstborn, is probably the boy with the violin. It is the middle child, Abraham Anthony (Bram), who was to gain importance for Dutch musical life. Judging from the age, he seems to be the boy on the left.

Albumen print by unknown photographer (235 x 295 mm). The cardboard bears traces of framing.

Abraham Anthony Noske (1873-1945) was active as a music publisher. He made it his mission to publish music by Dutch composers exclusively, and in this was guided more by idealism than by commercial instinct. Some of the 48 composers in his list are Alphons Diepenbrock, Bernard Zweers, Gerard von Brucken Fock, Dirk Schäfer, Jan van Gilse and Sem Dresden.

There is a fascinating, somewhat surrealistic atmosphere in this photograph. It is caused, in part, by the pose of the participants, each holding a piece of pear or pumpkin, apart from Johan Daniël Jr., who seems to take responsibility for the ‘table music’. The ambiance too is curious: the table is neatly set, with crystal bowls, but the table-cloth is crooked and the table has been set up in a messy yard, right next to the henhouse. The younger child is standing on a muddy box in a hole. Decorations on the wall are a halfhearted attempt to transform this into a dining room.

Father Johan Daniël Sr., who seems to pose as a bon vivant, was trained as a notary, just like his father, who also was mayor of the town of Axel. Johan Daniël however was wealthy enough not to exercise his profession. Since around 1875 the family lived in Middelburg, where this photograph was possibly taken. Music was part of family culture, as was usual in the upper middle class.

Abraham Noske, ca. 1910 (phot.: Cornelis Henning, Middelburg)

Abraham Noske’s efforts on behalf of his composers were not always appreciated, and his enterprise was not a commercial success. In 1926 he sold the firm to Johann Alsbach (G. Alsbach & Co). Since then he has made a living as a piano teacher in The Hague.

Johann Alsbach had a more businesslike mentality than Noske, but shared his interest in Dutch music. By buying the holdings of other publishers and through his own publications he created an extensive collection of Dutch printed music (some 14.000 pieces). In 1999 this was added to the collections of the NMI.

Abraham Noske was married to Leny Friedlaender, pianist and a pupil of the famous Dirk Schäfer. Their sons Willem (1918-1995) and Frits (1920-1993) both made a name in music. Willem as a successful violinist, and a passionate collector and propagandist of Dutch music; his collections Musica Neerlandica and Casa del violino are now in keeping of the NMI. Frits was a musicologist, professor in Amsterdam and author of publications on subjects such as French song in the nineteenth century, Constantijn Huygens and Jan Pietersz. Sweelinck.

LM, 28-2-2012

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